Author: Daniel, Bert


We all face crossroads in our lives, important junctures where we could take one path or a different one. It may be a decision about which direction is better or it might be a choice about which is the lesser evil. The crossroad can be a powerful image for music lovers. Eric Clapton sang about his crossroad and founded a drug and alcohol treatment center for others dealing with the same problem. Bill Monroe penned his gospel classic The Old Crossroad while leading a personal life that was not, shall we say, a model for other Christians.

I often wonder about what would have happened had I taken a different path at some critical point in my life. Even a seemingly trivial decision could have put you at a different place and time at a critical moment and changed your life forever. Fate: who knows what sets its course? What would your life have been like if you had taken that job in Kankakee instead of Kalamazoo? What would history have been like if Martin Luther King, whose birthday we celebrate this holiday, had decided not to take a trip to his balcony at a Memphis motel?

Late January is crossroads time for me personally. I married the love of my life over the MLK holiday weekend sixteen years ago. Talk about a crossroad that changes your life, marriage and kids has to be tops on anybody's list. But another crossroad I faced exactly twenty years ago had just as much importance for me. Without that crossroad I would never have been at the right place at the right time to even meet my beloved. None of all that stuff would have ever happened.

It was a clear sunny day in January when I made my way down through Virginia. I was taking my bike with me to the outer banks of North Carolina for some winter cycling. At that time in my life, riding my bicycle was my greatest pleasure. (It's still pretty far up there close to Bluegrass festivals). Anyway, as I drove toward the warmer weather, I lamented the roads not taken in my life and I realized that I wasn't all that happy in my current job, social life, etc.

Wrapped up in the exuberance of a vacation just beginning, I resolved to do something about my situation. As I drove along alone, I resolved that I would finally do something just for me. I would apply for a job I knew I could do and, since that job would be more than a year in the future, I would indulge my passion and ride my bicycle for an entire year on a visit to every state in the nation.

I had had these flights of fancy before. But when I came off my cloud I would always realize that my latest crazy idea was completely impractical. In the end, I always did the safe, conventional thing. But not this time. I lined up my new job. I made sure I had enough money saved for the trip. And I followed through and did it. I rode over 16,000 miles in a year and visited every state in one continuous loop (flying only to Alaska and Hawaii).

That year changed my life so much. Not only did it eventually put me in the places i needed to be for my current happiness, it taught me a lot about what was really important in life. I visited old friends I had known during my competitive overachiever days and I worried about whether they would lose respect for me now, since I was basically just a homeless guy riding around on his bicycle. I got just the opposite reaction. My respected colleagues wished they could do something like that too! Respected elderly aunts and uncles, who had surely bragged about their nephew on occasion, didn't bat an eye either. They reminded me about how my dad had hopped on a steamer to South America during the depression and had his own adventures.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't thank my lucky stars for having the wisdom to take the right fork in that road twenty years ago. And for all the other crossroads successfully negotiated since then I am truly grateful. A fellow cyclist, who was also a meteorologist, once told me that January 20 is statistically the coldest day of the year most places. I have always hated cold weather and I look forward to that day when the weather will get warmer and warmer. It's a time of rebirth, a crossroad.

A new season of Bluegrass festivals and cycling awaits! I wish all of you a happy Martin Luther King holiday. And I wish you luck at your next crossroad.

Posted:  1/21/2013

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email